Another eventful week in college basketball resulted in some notable changes in the AP Poll.
A look at the full rankings:
We’ll start with Notre Dame, which falls four spots to No. 9 after getting blown out by Michigan State in East Lansing.
The Fighting Irish will be fine – perhaps ranking them fifth was a tad overambitious in the first place – but the matchup with the Spartans wasn’t an ideal one. If your best player is a stretch big man, he’s a mismatch against 95 percent of the teams in America. Not so against Michigan State; for instance, see Luke Maye and Bonzie Colson. Those guys have each had one bad game this season. It’s no coincidence that it came against Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Nick Ward and the ferocious Michigan State interior.
The Spartans are a 37-point Grayson Allen explosion away from being the No. 1 team in the nation. Sure, the fact that Notre Dame wasn’t even competitive in the first half is disappointing. But Colson, Matt Farrell, T.J. Gibbs and Mike Brey are too talented and experienced not to hover around the Top 10 this season. They seem suited for the ninth spot.
Xavier is the highest riser this week, jumping eight spots to No. 13. Postgame theatrics aside, the Musketeers notched two huge home wins this week against Baylor and Cincinnati. Neither game was within single-digits.
For most of last year, it was all about Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura until role players like Kaiser Gates and Tyrique Jones stepped up in March. The latter two were essentially nonexistent early on. The question coming into 2017-18: would their postseason performance carry over?
It has, and it’s a big reason why Xavier could find itself in the Top 10 if it doesn’t slip up in December. (The schedule… doesn’t look daunting.) These guys look like Final Four contenders once again.
MORE: Katz on Xavier’s success
Two teams who will play big games this week rose in the poll: No. 7 Texas A&M and No. 12 Gonzaga. The Aggies continue to roll; outside of Michigan State, they have the best frontcourt in America. You’d put Tyler Davis, Robert Williams and D.J. Hogg up against just about anyone. Davis and Williams are both shooting better than 64 percent from the floor, and Hogg is the team’s leading scorer.
The trio has a guy who can shoot (Hogg); a ridiculous athlete (Williams); and a throwback, low-post brute (Davis). A matchup with struggling but talented Arizona looms. It will be so fun to watch DeAndre Ayton go up against this front line.
Gonzaga vaulted to No. 12 and faces No. 4 Villanova on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs have only lost once this season, a double-overtime heartbreaker to Florida. Mark Few is cementing his status as a future HOFer: he lost three starters and an NBA lottery pick from a 37-win team, yet Gonzaga is still awesome. Josh Perkins and Johnathan Williams have made well-timed leaps, Killian Tillie is proving he was overqualified as a fourth big man last year, and the freshmen have impressed.
Gonzaga-Villanova promises to be a well-played, well-coached game between two of the few schools who didn’t need much time to figure out new personnel. If you watch one college basketball matchup this week, it should be that one.
Four new schools joined the rankings this week: No. 19 Seton Hall, No. 21 Purdue, No. 22 Nevada, and No. 24 Tennessee.
The Pirates beat Texas Tech and Louisville in the same week, and Desi Rodriguez is proving he deserves as much praise as Angel Delgado. Rodriguez scored 29 points, including the game-winner, against the Cardinals this week. They could challenge Xavier and Villanova for the Big East crown.
Purdue has rebounded nicely after a rough showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Their formula is simple, but successful: surround Isaac Haas with four plus shooters, and score a bunch. Keep an eye on Haas’ backup, Matt Haarms, too. Purdue has been closing games with him because he’s much more mobile and gives the Boilermakers lineup versatility. Purdue has lacked someone like him in recent years.
It’s impressive to see Tennessee in the Top 25, too, considering the Volunteers haven’t finished above .500 since 2013-14. With Florida, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee all playing well, this is going to be a fun year in the SEC. Michael Porter, Jr. will be missed, but there’s plenty of talent in this league.
Big Ten conference play has begun, but for most leagues, December is about fine-tuning things for January, February, and March. But there are still some crucial matchups to watch. This Tuesday, for instance, is loaded. The show goes on.